It is a standard part of American divorce law to claim a portion of an ex-spouse's assets following a split, which may include the right to claim a portion of retirement benefits that were accrued during the marriage. The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) is a law intended to provide spouses that have been awarded part of a servicemember's retirement pay a method of enforcing child support and alimony orders. The following article reviews some of the relevant requirements and rights relating to the USFSPA.
Disposable Retired Pay
The Act focuses primarily on what they refer to as 'disposable retired pay.' This refers to the total monthly pay to which a retired servicemember is entitled, minus most Veteran's Administration disability pay, federal debt repayments, fines, forfeitures, and Survivor Benefit Plan premiums.
The law permits former spouses to receive direct payment of their child support or alimony orders from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the agency responsible for administrating servicemember disposable retired pay. The USFSPA permits garnishment of up to 65% of the retired military member's pay for spousal and child support.
Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act and the 10-Year Test
In order to qualify for the benefits of the USFSPA, the former spouse must establish their eligibility under the "10-year test." This refers to the requirement that the marriage to a servicemember lasted at least 10 years and that during that period the servicemember completed at least 10 years of creditable service for retirement purposes.
If your situation does not fulfill the requirements of the 10-year test you will not qualify for direct payment under the Act.
Additional Protections and Benefits
In addition to these rights and privileges, there are some additional benefits and protections extended by the USFSPA. To qualify for these additional benefits the couple must have been married at least 20 years, the servicemember must have completed at least 20 years of creditable service, and there must have been at least 20 years of overlap between the marriage and the creditable service.
If these 20/20/20 requirements are met, the servicemember's former spouse may be eligible to continue receiving commissary, exchange, and health care benefits following the divorce.
Those married 20 years to a servicemember with 20 years of creditable service but only 15 years of overlap are entitled to full military medical benefits for a full year following the divorce and are subsequently eligible for Department of Defense-negotiated conversion health policies.
In addition to the requirements that must be met in order to establish eligibility for benefits under the USFSPA there are conditions under which benefits that have been claimed may be lost. For example, remarriage or enrollment in an employer insurance program may terminate these benefits.
Get Legal Help with the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act
Divorcing a current or former U.S. armed forces servicemember can be a daunting prospect, but the law doesn't just protect their rights and interests. The USFSPA and other laws also look out for your best interests. Contact a military family law attorney to discuss how this and other laws can help you get fair treatment following your divorce from a servicemember.
Contact a qualified military law attorney to help you with military-related issues.